Let my Wi-Fi go: FCC rules Verizon can't charge for Wi-Fi tethering

Let my Wi-Fi go: FCC rules Verizon can't charge for Wi-Fi tethering

Summary: In what may prove a landmark ruling, the FCC has stated that Verizon can no longer charge users for using their 4G devices as Wi-Fi hotspots.

Verizon Wireless
The FCC has forced Verizon to stop charging an extra free for Wi-Fi tethering.

In a US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling, Verizon was ordered to stop charging users an additional fee for using their 4G smartphones and tablets as Wi-Fi hotspots, aka tethering.

P. Michele Ellison, FCC, Enforcement Bureau Chief, said in a statement, “This case was the first of its kind in enforcing the pro-consumer open access obligations of the C Block [the spectrum band reserved for 4G] rules. It underscores the agency’s commitment to  guarantee consumers the benefits of an open wireless broadband platform by providing greater consumer choice and fostering innovation."

As FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in the same document, "Today’s action demonstrates that compliance with FCC obligations is not optional. The open device and application obligations were core conditions when Verizon purchased the C-block spectrum. The massive innovation and investment fueled by the Internet have been driven by consumer choice in both devices and applications. The steps taken today will not only protect consumer choice, but defend certainty for innovators to continue to deliver new services and apps without fear of being blocked."

In short, “Verizon Wireless offers customers its 4G LTE service on C Block spectrum. Verizon Wireless bid at auction to acquire that spectrum, understanding that it was accompanied by open device and application obligations. Specifically, licensees offering service on C Block spectrum 'shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice on the licensee’s C Block network, subject to narrow exceptions.'”

In addition, “Under the terms of today’s settlement, Verizon Wireless will make a voluntary payment to the Treasury in the amount of $1.25 million, and has committed to notifying the application store operator that it no longer objects to the availability of the tethering applications to C-Block network customers” and that Verizon “revised its service offerings such that consumers on usage-based
pricing plans may tether, using any application, without paying an additional fee.”

The bottom line is that you will once more be able to freely share your Verizon 4G broadband connection over Wi-Fi with your other devices and your friends, co-workers, and family's devices. Verizon started closing the doors to tethering in the spring of 2011. Verizon wasn't the only carrier to tax users for using their bandwidth as they saw fit. AT&T had started charging tethering users  earlier in 2011.

In the case of Verizon, the company started charging users a $20 per month tethering charge even if they had an “unlimited” plan. Those days are done. You will now be able to freely share your bandwidth as you see fit.

I never understood Verizon's restrictive tethering policy. The carriers, starting with Verizon, were getting rid of unlimited data plans as fast as possible anyway. "Unlimited data is not something we think is sustainable in the long term," Tami Erwin, chief marketing officer for Verizon, said in a CNET interview. Thus, we were  always  going to end up paying out the nose for any data usage over 2GBs a month anyway. If you wanted to use that bandwidth to say your Verizon smartphone and your Wi-Fi only Apple iPad tablet and Lenovo ThinkPad laptop why should Verizon object? The $20 fee was always about trying to squeeze the customer for the maximum amount of income with the minimum amount of service.

Business being busines you will still almost certainly end up paying more for your 4G broadband as Verizon raises data plan prices in the future., For  now, though you can choose to use your data plan the way you want to use it without any additional fees. And, in the short run, you'll be saving $20 a month.

Related Stories:

Verizon Wireless Galaxy Nexus is a Wi-Fi tethering lemon

Verizon's new Share Everything plans; setting the bar for family plans

How mobile data plans should be set up

Verizon tethering police reach into your phone and disable the hotspot

Verizon targets customers running mobile tethering apps

Topics: Networking, 4G, Legal, Smartphones, Tablets, AT&T, Verizon, Wi-Fi

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  • About bloody time.

    My next tablet will not include 4G but rather remain WiFi only. This should save some dollars in the future.
  • Will this apply to all tethering?

    3G and other carriers included? Or is this just because the specific spectrum Verizon purchased was under specific terms of use?
    • 4G

      This relates to the 4G spectrum only.
  • Shared Plans

    This kind of takes the wind out of their shared plan. Maybe not entirely, but certainly reduces the appeal of multiple devices licensed, when all can go through the phone.
    • Re: Shared Plans

      that depends on if your an individual or family plan. I took my Plan to the shared plan and the only thing that changed with me is the data for our 2 phones became pooled instead of separate accounts. Same unlimited minutes same unlimited text half the price i was paying prior.

      Of course once again if your a single line user, all this is irrelevant
      Shane Hudson
      • Re: Shared Plans

        You are absolutely right!! Verizon charges a fee for every device connected to your shared data plan in addition to the price for the plan, so this would indeed take the wind out of their sails. Because now I do not need to add my tablet to my shared plan, I can just use my phone as a mobile hotspot and I do not need to pay the additional $25-$30.
  • This should simplify things and that's good. The more we can make the

    carriers data pipes the better. This is should also apply to voip, skype, etc. Wont mean much pricewise as I'm sure they'll account for it. But it should make it simpler to figure out and it should make ATT do something simpler to compete.
    Johnny Vegas
  • Mobile data is silly

    I just can't wrap my head around folks that cannot live without mobile data. I have a prepaid phone plan that gives me 3000 texts, 1200 talk minutes, and 100mb of data for the whopping price of $29.99 a month, no taxes, no fees and I have never gone over. I have WiFi at work, WiFi at home, most restaurants, and stores are offering WiFi. Why pay $30 -$50 a month for mobile data in addition to your talking plan? it seems so silly. Do you really need to watch a youtube video in your car? why not think ahead and load up your tablet or phone with videos before you leave the house? the 100mb of data that I get is plenty to check email, send a few pictures, and look up a few webpages. Do we really need gigs and gigs of data to stay in touch?

    Anyways, just my 2 cents
    • Agree 100%

      The article isn't necessarily about people who cannot live without mobile data, it's about being able to tether their mobile device with other devices. Example; If you don't have internet at your home, switch you phone into a mobile hotspot. This requires quite a bit of data.
    • You are not the world

      Other people, myself included see the value of a data plan. Why criticize the world for not wearing the same color shirt you have on?
    • Because you say so?

      That's quite an assumption that those of us that need to be able to use their data anywhere need it to "watch a youtube video in our cars."

      I work on my data. When I'm at home, it's not a problem, but I built my daily work around unlimited data access anywhere I go. 100 MB? I'd be through that in less than a day. Now, I knew unlimited couldn't last forever, but all these little charges everywhere are seriously digging into what was a respectable self-employment income.

      What's silly is to think that your experience is indicative of all users - some of us are using this data for important things and don't want to be extorted.
      Luke Lakatosh
    • Re: Mobile data is silly

      Mobile data is not sill for people who travel. I live in an RV, and not all RV Parks have wifi and even if they do I won't do banking or ebay or anything that requires a password over open wifi.
      • Re: "I won't do banking or ebay or anything that requires a password over "

        You realize the whole Internet is insecure, right?
    • Try using your phone

      Have you ever taken a trip and used your phone's GPS capability? Have you ever posted a great picture to Facebook? If you actually use the features of your phone it is very helpful to be able to move data while outside of a wi-fi area. You are also less likely to be hacked while on the cellular network than if you're on a open wi-fi hotspot at the mall.
    • Mobile Data is silly?

      I am disabled and trying to make some kind of living from home. I tutor via Skype which uses loads of data. Last month.... I made $490 tutoring and my Verizon data charges were $319! Yes, this is highway robbery. I live in a rural area and have no choice but to use a mobile hotspot to access the internet. Don't assume... all of us "data hogs" are streaming youtube videos!
      Sharon Nunn
      • Tutoring over 4g?

        Are you kidding me? If you are trying to save money use traditional wired network access with a computer. It is much better for skype as well Even a low end used computer for the verizon data charges will be faster via a wired connection than 4G
        Larry Towers
        • What wired network?

          I live in a rural area.... my choices are "mobile hot spot" or satellite internet which is not fast enough for Skype.
          Sharon Nunn
    • AGREE

      i dont understand it eatither , wifi at home , wifi at starbucks , wifi everywhere and still they want to pay for it
      Selena Texana
  • What about un-limited data users?

    So I've got a Verizon 4G phone with an un-limited data plan, i.e. I got grandfathered in when I upgraded about a year ago. From the text above - it looks like we're singled out as NOT being allowed to tether? Am I reading this correctly?
  • Well - FCC threw me under the bus!

    I've read the consent decree - and it specifically spells out that Verizon can differentiate between unlimited users and limited users! I thought that Verizon wasn't allowed to put locked functions on Block C devices? How does this consent decree jive with that requirement? I'm truly confused (and pissed off at FCC & Verizon) for treating me as a second class citizen!